November 7th, 2005

Tea-drinker par excellence

Past caring

Last week, before our regular game, Paula and I played a short game with Simon, his wife Miller and their 5 year old daughter Amber (possibly not named after the RPG of the same name - although I know it's one of Simon's favourites). Given Amber's fixation with Carebears, to the extent that school have notified the parents, this is what our game was about.

Amber is used to us turning up once a week to play "D&D" so she wanted a go at "Carebear D&D". Simon ran the game and kept rules to a minimum. We each drew our bears on our character sheets, the particular bears having been chosen by Amber. Paula had Friendship Bear and I was Grumpy Bear, I think Miller was Share Bear. Actions were decided on the roll of a d6. We had three of them and could spend them to activate our tummy symbols, used to either blast nasties or to impose our will on others. Care Bears seem to verge on militant evangelism.

Amber drew boxes on her character sheet to keep her dice in.

Simon kept the game fairly simple, all the Care Bear Friends (lesser creatures more on the frontline against No Heart Bear, our evil enemy) had disappeared. It turned out to be something to do with some funny food they had eaten which transported them to a dream world inhabited by CareThulhu(!?). We soon blasted that squamous critter with our tummy symbols and freed all our fuzzy little slavesfriends.

Amber really got the hang of roleplaying. One of the first things she did was to split the group, by saying Grumpy Bear was not going to go with everyone else. She then sent Friendship Bear to spend her tummy symbols on finding the Care Bear Friends. When we found the funny food, she sensed trap straightaway and wouldn't let anyone touch it and she was only too eager to blast any passing nasties with her care bear's tummy symbol. All good reactions for a newbie player.

Finally she talked about her character in first person during and after the game - obviously some kind of fetishisation.
Tea-drinker par excellence

The end of SteveCon?

Another SteveCon beset with organisational problems has come and gone. Admittedly I'm not the most organised person in the world but being the only person doing the organisation is a problem if you have a long illness in the middle, even more so if the brewery's room booker lets you down.

I'm wondering whether the format has any legs in it. So many people cancelled in the last week that there were only seven of us in the end (including pond823, spencerpine, sje2 and thefon), and whilst I enjoyed both games, playing in my front room would have been much more comfortable than the freezing pub cellar we ended up in.

So I've learnt a few more lessons:

1. Don't get a third party to organise the room - they have nothing to lose if it falls through.

2. Book GMs and players up front. We did this with the earlier cons and it seemed a hassle. Once people had become used to the format, it seemed easier to sort out who would be playing what on the day. I now think that if people haven't made a firm commitment to a particular game, they will find it easier to cancel if something else turns up. The vague promise of a game is not much of a commitment and that is all that SteveCon seems to offer at the moment. I'm not saying that people didn't have good reasons for not coming. All apologies were gracious and reasonable. What I'm saying is that I'd like SteveCon to give more compelling reasons for not cancelling, this is definitely not a moan about whether anyone turned up or not on Saturday.

I had thought about charging. Cancellations are much less likely if people pay to come, but that's really against the ethos of the thing.

3. Give plenty of notice - if things are going to be booked up front, they need to be sorted out well in advance.

4. Communicate better - RPGnet and Yahoo groups, whilst fine for advertising, are not a good medium for the main communications, given the issues I have with logging on. I really need a dedicated website.

5. Get some help.

Nothwithstanding all the problems, I enjoyed the games we played.

The first was Simon's 100,000xp AD&D game. We had a good mix of players, the scenario had plenty of interest, intrigue, fighting and good NPCs. It's still a rather crappy system (I had a 7th level fighter although for the same Xps Sasha had a 7/7 Illusionist Thief) full of holes (skills?) but we made do with good house rules and I enjoyed the game.

You can get a lot done in four hours if there are no distractions, although it was perhaps slightly more jocular than Simon had planned - he had described it as "Dogs in the Dungeon". We were King's Marshalls, enforcing the law in a place that had recently lost a civil war. However the lack of real social mechanisms meant that we quickly reverted to essentialism: using the main the AD&D methods of enforcement, i.e. swords and fireballs.

Afterwards I ran My Life with Master in the default setting, the Master once again builing soldiers for the Austrian Army. This time I made him a more pathetic figure, everything he tried failed. We had a good mix of characters:
- Cinder, the burnt child who could not bare to touch anyone but who could always get the truth;
- Bony, so feeble his bones would break if he didn't have living flesh to eat and stupefying to behold;
- Rudolph, the voice of an angel but with a touch that spread contagion (one of those Less Than Humans that is actually a More Than Human).

There was good interaction with a range of NPCs, a fair amount of interplayer rivalry and killing of connections. Bony spent too long in the village so was punished. Rudolph and Cinder between them broke his legs with a hammer. Later on Rudolph was instructed to attach wheels to the stumps during the course of which he stapled Bony to the ground.

I think in all there were 3 captures and 2 horror reaveled in the game, a good mix. The PCs started off with a fair amount of weariness which makes a change.

I managed to make things more creepy than usual this time by playing up the pathos of each situation. Whilst we did laugh sometimes, everyone got into this spirit and the end result was genuinely creepy.